WATSONVILLE — Shorthanded Watsonville High hung around but ultimately could not keep pace in a 54-42 loss to San Benito High in the semifinals of the Watsonville High girls’ basketball tournament on Friday night.
Without its leading scorer and best ball handler in senior point guard Savanah Quintana who was out sick, Watsonville (2-1) had to depend on its defense and effort in order to stay competitive with San Benito (4-2).
That formula worked for a time but the Haybalers finally broke down the Wildcatz’s defense in the third quarter with a 14-2 run that grew an eight point lead into a 22-point advantage.
“I think this will make us a better team in the long run,” said Watsonville head coach Randy Braga. “It made some of the girls get out of position and it made others step up.”
Senior guard Evelyn Rios had 17 points, eight rebounds, four assists, three steals and three blocks, senior center Julisa Vega added 10 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks and junior forward Ruby Galvan chipped in nine points.
The trio helped the Wildcatz make a late push in the fourth quarter but their rally came up short.
“Without Savanah we’re trying to mix up the team and find ourselves,” Rios said. “I think we did a great job. First quarter and second quarter weren’t the best but I think we said this isn’t the team we want to be seen as and we picked it up.”
San Benito advances to Saturday’s championship game at 7 p.m. against Gilroy High, which topped St. Francis High in the other semifinal.
Watsonville will play St. Francis in the third place game at 4:30 p.m.
It will be the first time that Braga will coach against his former team. He led St. Francis to a trio of Central Coast Section championships in four seasons before leaving the Sharks and taking over the Wildcatz last season.
“It’s going to be tough — it’ll be an emotional game for me — but when the game starts I’m out to win,” Braga said.
In other Watsonville High Girls’ Basketball Tournament action:
Pajaro Valley 56, San Lorenzo Valley 47
Pajaro Valley High stunned San Lorenzo Valley High in the early game to earn a spot in the consolation final.
They will play Harbor High at 1 p.m.
The Grizzlies lost 59-41 to St. Francis in the first round.